➤ TRADITIONAL ARTISTS
Cristina Hernandez Feldewert’s work has shifted over time from contemporary to traditional. Her tinwork also incorporates reverse glass painting.
Bernadette Marquez, a Santa Fe jeweler and master at the art of straw appliqué, also collaborates on pieces with her husband, Arthur Lopez. artlopezart.com/Jewelry.html
Arturo Montaño fashions his intense works out of deer and mule antlers.
Monica Sosaya Halford is a colcha embroiderer and maker of altar screens and retablos whose family has lived in Santa Fe since 1598. Camilla Trujillo is a San Pedro potter who specializes in micaceous pots.
➤ CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS
Sharon and Adam Candelario are metal artists based in Chimayó who create wonderful pieces using basic canning tin, which they blacken and etch with nails. blacketchedtin.com
Cynthia Cook, an Albuquerque-based tinworker, creates retablos that bear as much resemblance to Joseph Cornell’s boxes as they do to the rich spiritual Mexican and Hispanic heritage. (We profiled her in July 2012’s “The Saints Go Marching On.”)
John de Jesus is a woodworker whose Day of the Dead pieces are intricately carved, and steeped in references to modern times. labellamuerte.com
Darlene Olivia McElroy is a mixed-media and assemblage artist whose work is gothic, playful, and both serene and lushly busy. darleneoliviamcelroy.com
Angelo Torres fashions unexpectedly winsome trees, chairs, lamps, and crosses from discarded wire and scrap metal. On Facebook.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned collector, the one best thing to do at the Traditional Spanish Market and Contemporary Hispanic Market is to ask the artist in the booth, “How? How did you make that? How did you get those materials? How did you decide on that particular subject matter?” You’ll come away with a new way of seeing the Hispanic art that adorns this state at every turn.
Sponsored by Santa Fe’s Spanish Colonial Arts Society, the Traditional Spanish Market debuted in 1926. Still the oldest and largest event in the country featuring traditional Hispanic folk art and crafts, the market brings in close to 300 jury-selected artists from Southern Colorado and New Mexico. The artists’ works are so faithful to the methods and materials of the Spanish Colonial era of the 1600s that many of the pieces could be transported back in time and be instantly and respectfully embraced as authentic.
The concurrent and neighboring Contemporary Hispanic Market’s more modern artists tend to eschew the age-old techniques and materials used in colonial times, or to address subject matter more current or experimental than their more traditional brethren. Their interpretations support the preservation and celebration, but also the evolution, of Hispanic art.
Until 1971, Traditional Spanish Market and Indian Market coexisted as an annual gathering. In 1972, Spanish Market began showing in late July. In 1986, the Santa Fe Council for the Arts moved in alongside the more traditional Hispanic artists. This year, the Contemporary folks will have close to 150 booths, and artwork ranging from oil paintings and wearable art to recycled mixed media and photography. The number of visitors to the two markets totals over 70,000. They come not just for the art, the music and dance, the artist demonstrations, and the food, but also for the chance to interact with artists.
The distinction between the two markets is blurred, in that this is the third year that Traditional Spanish Market has included a “Contemporary” category. While certain artists have agitated for the Colonial Arts Society to open things up, the demand has also come from the public and collectors. Some began to ask, Just how many bultos and retablos of St. Francis can I make or buy or sell before this gets stale? And while it’s the responsibility of the artist to figure out a way to make work fresh and new and interesting, “You’re starting to see a lot of collectors respond to that different take as well,” says longtime Traditional Market artist Arthur Lopez, who’s been criticized by some of his more purist-minded peers for being “too contemporary.” “I myself believe in doing contemporary work with traditional methods,” he says.
Which is why, in order to distinguish the traditional from the contemporary, it’s best to ask the artists at both markets as many questions as you may have. “Is the process as important as the end product?” asks Lopez. “Some people have no interest in how something’s made. That’s fine. They just like the piece. But for me, I’m interested in other art. I don’t understand weavings, so I want to know how they’re made, where they got their wool from, and how. That gives me a better understanding not just of its cultural and artistic values, it gives me an understanding of why it costs what it does. Some people are bored by that, and I get it. But each artist should have a lesson to give about their art or about the Market.”
Most do, and are more than happy to answer any questions, especially when it comes to their art—even the artists in the Youth category. These kids often apprenticed with older relatives, who passed on specific traditional knowledge and techniques. Remember, too, that today’s youth are the adult artists of tomorrow, and that their prices are generally lower—a bonus, if one of their pieces calls to you.
A good place to get an overview of the Market is the Friday-night preview, which takes place before the Market officially opens. “If you’re starting out,” says Lopez, “you get to see what the artists consider their best pieces—and all in one place. It’s a really good way to get your feel for the Market. And for the art.”
Both markets are growing, with 20 to 25 new artists joining the Traditional this year, and almost as many among the Contemporary. The interest in Hispanic art has grown with it. Last fall, Lopez gave a talk to a crowd of potential collectors. “It was an ah-ha moment for them,” he recalls. “They didn’t realize how distinct this art is, how rich its history is—that it’s not just religious, it’s not folk art. It’s art. Period.”